The STEM Toothpick Challenge That Your Students Will Love!

When working with kindergarten and first grade students, it’s important to keep things fresh and exciting in the classroom. Their attention spans aren’t exactly long and they can get restless easily. STEM activities are a great way to do that! 


When I was in the classroom, I was always looking for STEM activities that would make our lessons interesting and exciting for my students. I love STEM because it makes it so easy to increase student learning and educational outcomes. What kid doesn’t love to get their hands dirty and create?!

STEM challenges provide endless possibilities if you have some basic supplies stocked in your classroom. 

Some great materials to have on hand include: 

  • Bingo daubers
  • Whiteboards and Expo markers
  • Playdough
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Small candy 
  • Finger paint
  • Shaving cream
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Aluminum foil
  • Pencils 
  • Construction paper
  • Markers 
  • Legos 
  • Cotton balls
  • Tape
  • Straws

Another supply we use is tooth picks! These are a great, inexpensive supply you can use for so many things. 

Our favorite activity is this STEM Toothpick Challenge. 


This is a hands-on activity you can use when you are teaching about 2D and 3D shapes. This resource comes with Build A Shape mats to show students what shapes to make. Just print and laminate them and you can use them year after year. 


Students build their 2D and 3D shapes with toothpicks and playdough. You can use marshmallows or gumdrops instead if preferred. Students will engage in STEM thinking as they count the toothpicks, sides, vertices, and trace the words. 

Included with this resource you get:

  • 8 2D Mats for shape building
  • 6 3D Mats for shape building
  • 2 Recording sheets
  • 2 Answer keys 


This challenge encourages thinking, teaches shape recognition, sides, and vertices, and increases problem solving skills. 


Check it out here! 

If you are looking for more STEM activities, check out my STEM challenge here that ties in with the book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff. 

What are your favorite STEM activities for kindergarten and first grade? Let me know in the comments!


Teaching Forms of Energy

Energy is the ability to do work. We know this, and we appreciate the ways we use energy in our everyday lives. For our students however, this is not necessarily something they would think much about. Our kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade students may not even know a lot about the energy they use every day like sunlight, food, and electricity. They also may not think of light, sound, and heat as types of energy. This is a very important topic for students to understand. 

Something that is important is to know your students’ misconceptions. Most likely, they don’t know what energy looks like. They may think that light can’t move through objects. They may have never thought about vibration creating sound. Teaching these concepts can be really fun with a little prep work!  

Here are some tips for teaching energy forms to your students. 

  • Take it slow. It can be a challenging concept for younger students to grasp at first. You don’t want to overwhelm them right from the start. Plan it out ahead of time and take it one step at a time. 
  • Explain what energy is first, and then start offering examples of energy (sound, heat, and light). Breaking it down will make a difference in student comprehension. 
  • Try reading some books about energy forms. Usually, books are a great way to learn more about subjects from a different source, which can be a great thing for the trickier topics. 
  • Do a variety of activities to get lots of practice. You can do fun science experiments if you want, or you can keep it simple and straightforward. Tell your students that they are the scientists and their job is to understand forms of energy. 

This Forms of Energy Activities resource for kindergarten and first grade would be a great addition to your forms of energy lesson plans. It covers sound, heat, and light with a 3 week plan including 3 inquiry lessons, data notebook, rubric, home project, and more. forms of energy

Here’s some more information on what is included in this Forms of Energy resource:

Lesson Plan (What is a Scientist?) WEEK 1

Lesson Plan (Science Tools) WEEK 2

Lesson Plan (Scientific Method) WEEK 3

Act It Out (Teacher calls out the energy word, students act it out)

Draw or List forms of energy

Forms of Energy Writing and Drawing Printable

Forms of Energy – Heat, Light, Sound Interactive Notebook Page

Energy Mini-Book

Venn Diagram – compare fire and the sun

Ask a Friend – Practice collecting data, predicting and collecting evidence

I SPY Sound Items

Draw what you think sound looks like

Interactive Notebook pages for making a pocket full of things that make sound

Sound Energy Mini-Book

Venn Diagram compare the soft sound of the beach to the loud sound of the music room at school

Writing Page about Sound Energy

Draw 3 forms of energy in the circle.

Inquiry Lesson Light Experiment with various Items to see if light passes through

Inquiry Student Page to collect

Hear and See Sound Experiment

Hear and See Sound by showing vibration

Melting Ice Teacher Instructions for Inquiry Lesson

Student page to collect data on melting ice experiment

Fun Science Hat/Headband 

What is energy? Poster

Vocabulary Posters (sound, soft, vibrate, loud, heat, light)

Energy Notebook Journal with Rubric

Forms of Energy


What activities do you like to do to help your students understand forms of energy? Let me know in the comments below!

forms of energy
For more science activities and lessons, check out my post here! 

If YOU Give A Mouse A Cookie STEM Challenge | Build a MOUSE HOUSE

Laura Numberoff’s book are my FAVORITE of all-time books series. I was so lucky to meet her years ago when I first began my teaching journey in Orlando, FL. Her and Tomie DePaolo were speaking at a teacher conference. I bought all of their books, got my autographs and read them every year religiously to my class during author studies.

In 1985, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie was finally published after she received nine rejections. Her story inspired me to teach students how they should never give up on their dreams. I had a lot of fun using her books as companions for other lessons in my classroom.

One of my favorite lessons was for students to build a mouse house the character. It had to have all the rooms that were in the story. I tied in counting square tiles for the little ones while they created a floor plan with square or tissue paper tiles. They used lincoln logs or blocks to build the walls of the room and I would challenge them to complete the task in a certain amount of time. Students also had to make sure their paper mouse would fit inside the house they built. During centers, student made up their own adventures about the mouse with the house they built while writing stories. The students loved it! Of course we ended our unit with COOKIES!

This year I added a way for older students to get in on the fun! They use grid paper to make a blueprint of the floor plan. Then, they have to solve the area in square units and measure the walls with rulers. Here is an example of a mouse house for 2nd-4th graders:

Kindergarten and First Grade

Don’t worry, I added all the printable to this unit to keep it simple for the little ones and still tie in math elements. Teachers who teach multiple grade levels love the ease of differentiating the material with their students!

Animated Series

Not only can you explore all of Laura Numeroff’s books, she has a new Amazon prime animated video series that is amazing to share with students. Check out #IfYouGiveaMouse Videos to see all the characters in her most popular books!